A Neat Spot on the Appalachian Trail

     Just last week, I had the opportunity to check out a hike in Virginia on the Appalachian Trail. The spot is called McAfee Knob. It is a pretty well-known area along the trail. You might even recognize the place upon seeing the pictures up at the Knob.


     It was very easy to access the McAfee Knob as a day hike. There is a parking lot on VA-311 to access the trail head. It's a pretty popular hike, so we were lucky to go on a Monday during March. We didn't see very many people on the trail and only a handful at the Knob.
     The hike itself is about eight miles round-trip. It can be done as a loop or a in-and-back hike. Basically, you can hike in and out using the Appalachian Trail, or use the fire road that runs nearly parallel to the trail. The route that we took was on the Appalachian Trail on the way up to the Knob and the fire road coming back down. There is a fair amount of rock on the trail that you have to step over or around, including some stone steps here and there. The fire road is much smoother, but at some point you will end up back on the Appalachian Trail. The fire road doesn't go directly to McAfee Knob.
     At the trail head, the map describes the hike as moderate to strenuous. That is about right. There are easy stretches, but some relatively steep areas of elevation gain. You end up going up about 1,700 feet over the four miles to get to the top.
     There are two shelters on the way up-- the Johns Spring Shelter and the Catawba Mountain Shelter. They are both pretty basic but definitely provide a nifty spot to take a rest.
     Near the top, you'll start to see more and more rock. In some spots, there is a lot of moss and such, which makes the rock look rather pretty. Finally, you will reach McAfee Knob. Here there are exposed rocks and cliffs. Be sure to be cautious up here, particularly if the weather is less than ideal. The hike is certainly worth the reward though. At the top, you have a view of the surrounding mountains and valleys in most directions. You can do a bit of exploring at the top too, as there are accessible areas beyond what you can see right away.
     Coming down was easier and faster than going up. We finished the hike in a bit over four hours. A fit hiker could finish in less. I took frequent breaks and spent a fair amount of time at the Knob-- we ate lunch and what not.
     I highly recommend this hike if you are looking for Appalachian Trail sections to check out or if you're bored in Virginia!




   

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